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Iditarod

Volunteer veterinarians give Iditarod dog teams a once-over as the race nears

Whitehorse musher Magnus Kaltenborn holds a dog while Anchorage veterinarians Karen Myhre, left, and Heather Rodriguez examine it Wednesday, March 4, 2020 during the Iditarod vet checks in Knik. The mandatory checks allow veterinarians to examine each dog before it is allowed to run the 1,000-mile race. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

KNIK — On Wednesday, veterinarians crouched over sled dog after sled dog in Knik, performing mandatory checks on the canine athletes racing in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The vet checks came after weeks of interactions between veterinarians and sled dogs leading up to the race. All of the dogs had already had their blood analyzed and their heart monitored.

Girdwood musher Nicolas Petit carries a dog from his truck during the Iditarod vet checks Wednesday, March 4, 2020 in Knik. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

The data from individual dogs is compared relative to the rest of the team, head vet Stuart Nelson said. That way, he can determine if one dog has a muscle injury, or is in poorer shape than the rest of the team. Through that process, about 20 are weeded out of the field of more than 1,000 each year, Nelson said.

Kristen McCarty, a veterinarian from Ely, Minn., examines a dog in musher Nicolas Petit's team during the Iditarod vet checks Wednesday, March 4, 2020 in Knik. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Wednesday was also a chance to re-draw blood samples if the vets saw something they wanted to double-check in an earlier screening. Something as benign as a big meal before the blood draw could inflate certain levels, so the vets might want to get a second sample to be safe, Nelson said.

Wasilla musher Tom Knolmayer stands with his dogs during the Iditarod vet checks Wednesday, March 4, 2020 in Knik. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

The main reason for vet checks is to give a physical examination of each of the dogs, said Nelson.

Riley Tompkins, musher Merideth Mapes's boyfriend, holds Frygga during the Iditarod vet checks Wednesday, March 4, 2020 in Knik. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
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